Adult Congenital Heart Disease

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Recent advancements in heart surgery have allowed more children diagnosed with congenital heart defects to live into their adult years. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 1.4 million adults in the U.S. are living with congenital heart defects.


And although congenital heart disease is present at birth, symptoms may not appear until adulthood. Even after childhood repair, many adults with congenital heart disease continue to need specialized care.
Congenital heart disease can involve the heart walls, valves, blood vessels and the heart’s electrical system. While some congenital heart defects may cause no symptoms, others may lead to life-threatening conditions. 


Types of Adult Congenital Heart Disease

The most common types of adult congenital heart diseases including the following: 




Symptoms of Adult Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart defects may present in adults with the following symptoms:


  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • A bluish tint to the skin and fingernails (cyanosis)
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Poor blood circulation
  • High blood pressure

Some congenital heart defects or their associated repairs can predispose patients to other medical problems involving the liver, kidneys, lungs or even blood.  Care for these problems is best managed in a center specially designed for adults with congenital heart disease where a multi-disciplinary team can work together to optimize the outcomes in these patients.



Treating Adult Congenital Heart Disease

Many congenital heart defects require no treatment but do require regular annual medical checkups. If treatment is required, diagnosing congenital heart defects is the first step. Diagnosis involves a physical exam to check for symptoms, which may be followed by one or more diagnostic tests:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram, a sonogram of the heart
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG), a test of the heart’s electrical activity
  • Cardiac catheterization, a treatment that involves passing a thin tube into the heart
  • Cardiac MRI  is a noninvasive cardiac imaging process that uses radio waves, magnets, and a computer to create pictures of the heart
  • Cardiac CT uses x rays to take many detailed pictures of your heart and its blood vessels

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